Though you’ll find that a significant majority of your average miniatures sets are somewhat heavy on the land-based (and often skirmish-centric) warfare, there is also no shortage of miniatures games that cater to naval warfare either. From the hugely popular Axis and Allies offerings to the incomparable Naval Thunder, you’ll definitely going to find a top-quality naval miniatures game to suit your tastes in this top 5 rundown.
(1) Naval Thunder: Battleship Row & Bitter Rivals Expansion
Short of actually joining the navy, there’s nothing like the thrill and experience of simulating a battle at sea, a battle sphere that as potentially thousands of scenarios just waiting to be explored. And what better way to explore them than with two of very best naval warfare miniatures game available, Naval Thunder’s expansion packs of Battleship Row and Bitter Rivals. Both of these expansions are rules that inform a variety of scenarios and battle situations from the period of 1939-1945, better known as World War II.
Battleship Row is the base game that came first (released in 2009), bringing with it the opportunity for players to experience tactical battles with the carriers and battleships of the Second World War. The rules dictate various scenarios that cover surface combat as well as guidelines for aerial and submarine combat. Included in the pack is a 66-page rulebook as well as around 44 pages of data cards for various Japanese and American vessel.
Bitter Rivals is the 2010 expansion to Battleship Row that augments the experience further by providing additional force and scenarios. These two rulesets work very well together considering that Bitter Rivals lays down rules for other countries involved in the war: Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. If you cannot enjoy the additional 13 scenarios that Bitter Rivals offers – these take place in both the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific – then you simply don’t know a sublime miniatures game when you see one. The incredible scenarios, comprehensive rules, and historical accuracy coupled with the ability to print out data for whichever ships you like makes Naval Thunder’s Battleship Row and Bitter Rivals the best products to come from Naval Thunder.
(2) Axis and Allies: War at Sea: Revised 2 Player Starter
Axis and Allies is one of the most prolific miniatures game sources in the entire world of miniatures gaming, and their Revised War at Sea 2-Player Starter pack is a substantially good game worthy of taking second place here. This 2-Player Starter pack is the best place for relatively unfamiliar gamers to begin since it contains 8 miniatures for you to get playing immediately, as well as obvious things such as an updated ruleset, the required dice, and the battle maps on which you will be playing. Though War at Sea may seem quite simple when compared to some complex games out there, it is this simplicity and ability to get stuck in immediately that it has in its favour.
If you take into account the nicely-scaled miniatures (pre-painted) – these are of above-average quality and you’ll definitely pick out a few favourites depending on your taste – then what you have is a very enjoyable sea-based war game. It’s a little unfortunate that the hobby can become quite expensive due to the necessity of the expansion packs, but this starter pack contains enough miniatures to at least get you started. Wizards are the company responsible for this pack (as well as all of the Axis and Allies miniatures), and their long-term experience with miniatures really shows through here.
(3) Axis and Allies War at Sea: Surface Action (Expansion)
Another Axis and Allies offering here, this time an expansion to War at Sea in the form of Surface Action. This pack simply has to be at number 3 here not because of any radical changes to additions to the rules of the base War at Sea game, but because of the 40 – that’s right, 40 – miniatures that this pack contains. These miniatures are sure to spice up you War at Sea game by quite a way.
In terms of content, this expansion pack contains a multitude of vessels: battleships, destroyers, aircraft carriers, shore-based batteries, and a great deal more, all sure to expand your existing naval forces and give you the capacity to re-enact famous battles or simply create your own. You’ll find real-life vessels among the ranks here as well including the USS Wasp. These miniatures are of great quality and should appeal to existing Axis and Allies players as well as collectors of all things WWII.
(4) NWS Naval Warfare: World War 2
Number 4 here is from the Naval Warfare Simulator Team and is a comprehensive take on a healthy selection of battles from World War 2. Not only does this game allow for a wide variety of battles, but it also allows you to create your very own custom scenarios as well. Also, unlike many of the Axis and Allies miniatures sets, this one comes with a serious quantity of units including convoys, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, airfields, air bases, air strips, and a staggering array of other models. However, we’re still dealing with just a PDF download here, and though it’s free, it doesn’t come with the miniatures like the Axis and Allies games on this page.
(5) Axis and Allies: War at Sea: Flank Speed (Expansion)
With so many expansions to the War at Sea base pack, it can be easy to lose track, However, Flank Speed is yet another one that stands out. Like the Surface Action expansion, Flank Speed also provides 40 additional miniatures to augment anyone’s existing collection. These new units include French, Canadian, Soviet, and Kiwi (New Zealand) vessels.
In spite of the healthy model selection, there are still some niggles with this set including design errors (such as incorrect colour arrangements on the Italian ships) and also some minor errors with the cards. Still, it should be easy to look past these small errors considering Flank Speed adds a number of gameplay-improving features such as new units and also special abilities. Designated Convoy Escorts for example should encourage players to engage in this kind of scenario more than they would have before due to the odds being made a little more favourable through the introduction of convoy escorts.
So it stands to reason that Flank Speed should sit at number 5 in this list. It has the miniatures, it has the new units, and it has the ability to greatly expand on the base War at Sea game substantially. Take a look at the official War at Sea: Flank Speed section of the Wizards website for more information.
When it comes down to it, Battleship Row and its expansion Bitter Rivals is simply the best naval miniatures set you can buy, These two expansions contain a horde of scenarios that allow you to recreate a wide array of battles from the World War II period. Axis and Allies’ 2-player War at Sea pack was a close second of course, with its included miniatures that allow beginners to get started without already having a massive collection of models. It was the custom scenarios that afforded NWS’s offering 4th place here – never underestimate the fun of creating your own vessels as well as your own scenarios – whilst Flank Speed fell at number 5 because of the tiny inaccuracies that are bound to irritate the avid collector.